Pandora plays an intriguing role in Greek mythology. According to the legend, she was the first woman, created by the ruler of the gods, Zeus. Zeus was assisted in his task by other Greek deities, including Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, who used her powers to bestow upon Pandora grace and loveliness; Hermes, messenger of the gods, gave Pandora persuasion; and Apollo, god of music and the arts, favored the woman with musical skill. Because of the gifts of the gods, Pandora was very attractive - her name even means "all gifts".
However, Pandora had one flaw - she was extremely curious. When she encountered a jar (or, in some versions, a box) that belonged to Epimetheus, she could not resist learning about its mysterious contents, and so she simply opened it. This jar contained all of the evils, which were then released into the world. The only thing that remained in the jar was hope.
This part of myth is depicted in Rossetti's image. The emphasis is on Pandora, her hand poised over the box that contains the evils that are shown escaping as a cloud of smoke. This billowing smoke is enveloping Pandora, and forming a sort of halo around her head. As with many of Rossetti's images of women, Pandora is a languid beauty with flowing hair and a pensive expression.
For More Information
An article about Pandora in Classical mythology is available at Mythography.
David Rodgers has written this informative and engaging book about the artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The book, which is part of the Phaidon Colour Library series, features many of Rossetti's most memorable paintings, including his Beata Beatrix and The Blessed Damozel.
This lovely book by Andrea Rose captures the essence of Pre-Raphaelite art using a series of images from several artists. Paintings by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and many other artists are presented in full color, with intriguing commentaries.